Watching House M.D. after half a degree in neuroscience

If you are here, you probably know that psychology is much more than just labelling yourself with four random letters. In case you don’t, this post is going to casually invite you to reconsider the relationship between psychology and medical practice.

House M.D. (House) – one of best medical drama out there. Each episode tackles a rare disease, usually starts with a random patient showing very dramatic symptoms, and the medical causes are gradually unravelled as the plot progresses by making differential diagnoses. Although it is not an accurate depiction of how diagnoses are made in real life, all the diseases involved in the show do exist, and the medical approaches are rather realistic in the early seasons.

When it comes to introducing the patient, the show has an understandable fetish with using aggressive, overt, salient, yet bizarre abnormalities. For this reason, there are many episodes surrounding neurological disorders, such as akinetopsia, emotional facial paresis, alien hand syndrome, and mass hysteria; after going through a Bachelor degree packed with human neuroscience lectures, it has become a really rewarding experience for me to revisit this show.

In summary:

  • When talking about tissues/organs/systems above the neck, words don’t sound like complete gibberish anymore;
  • It is possible, although not frequently, to come up with a correct diagnosis ahead of the show (I have forgotten most of the plots);
  • Sometimes you could tell when they have twisted the symptoms to serve the plot;
  • Mispronunciations, but then again I too am struggling most of the time.

Just to give an example:

This scene is taken from S01E02 – the first episode after the pilot. In this scene, House pointed out there is an abnormality in the Corpus Callosum, the very structure connecting left and right hemisphere. But there is no Corpus Callosum to be found on here, and there is no way to tell if it is ‘arching’ from a transverse plane (the ideal plane to observe would be sagittal). Now I don’t practise medicine and probably never will, but base on our neuroimaging lectures and time spent at the imaging centre, there is no way MRI images can be so precise that a shadow in the Corpus Callosum could suggest a blockage in the brain that causes dysphasia.

While it’s indeed fun and all to have a refreshing viewing experience watching the same show again, it’s just too bad that none of the streaming services got this show on demand. There is no even a place to make a one-off purchase for the complete digital collection, imagine if one day they are added to Steam store and become part of the Black Friday sales, it would be grand.



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